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Mid-year budget changes hit Lake Stevens School District

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Published on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 by BY PAM STEVENS | MANAGING EDITOR

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After already cutting their annual budget by more than $3.6 million for the 2009-2010 school year, Lake Stevens School District was told that they would be receiving an additional 6.3 percent reduction in funds because of the governor’s across the board cuts in the middle of the 2010-2011 school year.

In this unprecedented move, the governor’s and legislature’s K-4 class size mid-year cuts totaled an additional $884,805 on top of the $660,000 already deducted from the 2010-2011 school year. The grand total for budget cuts in the last year and a half total over $5.1 million in reductions.

The School Board has been working diligently to ensure that students inside of the classroom are the least affected by these cuts. However, the additional mid-year cuts were directly tied to K-4 class sizes.

With these cuts, and according to the latest projections, it is only reasonable to assume the funding for class sizes will be affected when the final budget is announced in late April, after the legislature has completed the 2011 session.

“Since the mid-year cuts included cutting the financial support for reduced class size at K-4, and the governor’s proposed budget included elimination of the K-4 support as well, we can only assume that K-4 support will not be funded,” Arlene Hulten, Community Relations Director for the Lake Stevens School District said. “If the district doesn’t receive the funding from the state it is likely that K-4 class size will have to increase. When the conference budget is agreed upon at the end of the session, the district will evaluate the total impact and begin the process of developing a balanced budget.”

Because of planning and strict oversight of the district’s budget, the school board has been able to ensure that they have a five percent reserve fund of which a portion will be used to cover the unexpected mid-year cuts.

“The district will realize $844,805 in revenue cuts from the state this year.  These are dollars that have already been budgeted and committed to via contracts with employees,” Hulten explained. “We are able to cover these costs by the use of reserve funds.”

The school district will see its first payment reduction from the state next month and is expecting that the new biennium budget will not be any better. The district receives its funding from the state on a monthly basis—it’s know as “apportionment” and is allocated funds based on a ratio for funding per full time student, and categorical funds such as support from state and federal monies for special education, Title 1 and LAP.

“The state’s revenue reductions will begin with the April payment. In Sept. the district began with a $6.2 million dollar reserve fund, approximately nine percent of the general fund,” Hulten said. “This fund fluctuates greatly over the course of a year and is required for cash flow and a sound financial rating. At the end of this fiscal year, we expect that our reserve fund will still meet the five percent guideline as set by the school board.”

The reserve fund has been built up over time and using those funds is not a permanent solution to the state’s budget crisis. It’s comparable to a savings account which does not regenerate easily, therefore it cannot be looked at as resolution to funding shortfalls.

So far we have seen cuts in transportation, athletics, administrative, teaching and custodial staff reductions. The district has also contracted with the Granite Falls School District to consolidate the PROVE program and join forces with GFSD’s Crossroads program. This alone has saved the district approximately $180,000 this year.

The school board and administrators have begun to prepare for upcoming budget cuts, but until the new budget comes out of Olympia they don’t want to speculate on what will have to happen.

“We have begun the calculations with regard to the governor’s proposed 2011-13 budget and project that at a minimum it would equate to $900,000 in reduced funding,” Hulten said. “There are still unknowns about her budget that cannot yet be accurately calculated.”

The district and School Board goals for reductions over the past two years have been and will continue to be:
• Save as many jobs as possible and preserve the integrity of the classroom.
 • Protect the safety of students, staff and school community.
• Weight the impact on their primary mission of teaching and learning.
•Identify strategic savings rather the across-the-board reductions.
• Implement administrative personnel savings.
• Pursue additional revenue sources.
• Do not violate the law or negotiated agreements.
• Align with actions of the state legislature.
• Provide opportunity for stakeholder input.

As more tough decisions have to be made, the board will continue to seek the help of the public.
For more information call the Lake Stevens School District at 425-335-1500.

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